A Time to Fly

Well, they fledged! I was hoping to see the little chickadees, and yesterday, early evening, was their moment.

Recently, the little ones were creating quite a chirpy racket each time a parent bird approached with a bit of food.  Mama and daddy were increasingly diligent when warning away any critter that wandered too near.

The pine bird house with the green roof is hung on our trellis so that it faces west, and for a few minutes each evening the sun shines through the trees allowing us a little glimpse inside its dark, round entryway.  We had thought, on earlier occasions, that we could see movement inside when mama and daddy chickadee were out gathering baby food in the form of seed or small insect.

Yesterday evening's glimpse began with seeing a face!  As the sun shone on their nesting place, we could see one eye peering out into the brightly lit world.  Bravery grew and we could see a head.  I was sure I wasn't prepared, worried as I was about wandering neighborhood cats and such.  I figured that the little ones would plop out onto the mulch in my garden and spend a day or so gaining the strength to fly- the way I had seen with baby robins.  I envisioned my self as a sort of cat barrier, no matter how unrealistic my feline-restraining delusions might have been.

I had noticed that mom and dad weren't doing a lot of feeding late yesterday afternoon, but I did see mama chickadee pop her head in and look repeatedly to the left and right. I wondered whether she were telling them, "Not yet," because I was not ready.  Maybe,  in fact, she was telling them, "It's your time, little ones."

The bravery of a full head peaking out of the entrance hole quickly led to a full body at the door and a sudden leap into space, wings flapping wildly in unsteady flight.  The weight of gravity was a little much as the fledgling couldn't reach the top of our fence, instead thudding into it and landing on the earth under our small stand of variegated Solomon's seal.   Knowing that I was necessary to this process, I scuttled over to see if the little one was okay.  My wiser husband said, "Step back. . .  here come's mama."  So I pulled back to the house - just in time to see the second one take a similar awkward, thudding flight from it pine home, landing on our wooden bench.

Daddy and mama were busy checking on the little ones, tweeting away, encouraging them to fly, fly again.  One  crossed the street, thudding into a neighbor's fence before reaching a tree branch just above it where daddy bird was waiting. The babies made their little chirpy cries while the parents tweeted back their confidence. This fly, thud, try again was becoming a pattern, and we were becoming certain that our presence was not helping the situation. We went in the house as a beautiful spring evening rolled towards darkness. Once inside, we heard another thud against our home, wincing in pain and possibility for the fledglings.

By deep dusk, there were no signs or sounds of chickadees.  I crept outside to fill our fountain to make easier tomorrow's sips of water, if they were desired, and left our now empty  back yard with some sorrow.

I am hoping to see the chickadees again- they do frequent our feeder and watering spots.  And I'll need to do a little reading. (I think I remember the Audubon Society recommending that a bird hose be emptied to welcome a second nest this year, but I want to be certain.) I am learning that eager helpfulness has its downside.

What a gift to watch new life take a risk and find its awkward wings.  A reminder that thudding about is often a part of new adventures and that risky flights worth taking sometimes lead to temporary struggles on the ground.

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